Tyrrells Premier 15s and Women's Rugby in 2018
By Emma Thurston
Last Updated: 31/12/17 9:12pm
The Tyrrells Premier 15s competition was launched at Twickenham Stadium on September 7 with the inaugural round of matches taking place the following weekend.
The competition will see an investment of £2.4m from the RFU over the next three years with the 10 member clubs benefiting directly from this financial support.
The investment is enabling them to establish key infrastructures for their athletes such as S&C and analysis departments alongside academy systems.
The format is such that clubs will play against each other home and away with the top four teams qualifying for the play-offs.
The semi-final play-offs will take place over the course of two legs and the two winners will then meet with one becoming the inaugural Tyrrells Premier 15s champions.
At this point in time, the majority of clubs have played 11 matches - a couple of fixtures have been disrupted by the weather - and Saracens Women sit at the top of the table and remain unbeaten.
The leaders started their season with a 22-13 victory at Firwood Waterloo Ladies and following that game have secured a try-scoring bonus point in every one of their matches.
Saracens Women, led by head coach by Rob Cain, have scored 66 tries to date with England international Marlie Packer leading the way with 13.
The flanker has had a considerable impact at her new club, she moved to the North London outfit from Bristol Ladies, and as you would expect is Saracens' top points scorer.
Packer's efforts also mean that she is the currently second highest try scorer in the league, Wasps' Abigail Dow also has 13 tries to her name.
The honour of being the most prolific try scorer goes to Harlequins' Jessica Breach, an electric winger who is flying for both club and country.
The Harlequin famously scored six tries on her international debut against Canada this autumn - the first player to do so - and then backed that up with a cool five tries in the third Test.
At domestic level, her tally currently sits at 16 and the back can regularly be seen scoring 50-metre efforts, like she did during Harlequins' most recent victory over Firwood Waterloo Ladies in Round 11.
During the first two seasons of the Tyrrells Premier 15s relegation will not be part of the league. The principle is that this will provide the franchises time to develop and establish themselves.
This decision is a welcome feature for all involved and in particular for those clubs that are currently sitting lower in the table.
Worcester Valkyries are 10th with two league points and the Firwood Waterloo Ladies are in ninth position with seven.
Despite Firwood Waterloo Ladies' placing, they do boast the kicker who has amassed the most points off the tee so far this campaign.
Fly-half Bethany Stott has delivered 48 points and is yet to miss a penalty kick at goal.
2018 starts with Worcester Valkyries going in search of their first win of the campaign against Loughborough Lightning at Sixways.
The match is a rescheduled Round 10 game (due to snow) before a full set of Round 12 fixtures will be played the following weekend.
Of course, 2018 will also see the return of the Women's Six Nations live on Sky Sports and England will be looking to retain their title after a Grand Slam year in 2017.
The national side's campaign starts at the Stadio Mirabello against Italy on February 4 before they return home to face Wales at the Twickenham Stoop the weekend after.
Away fixtures against Scotland and France follow before the Red Roses will finish their campaign at the Ricoh Arena against Ireland on March 16.
With Tyrrells Premier 15s matches occurring on some of the weekends when these international fixtures are taking place, it will be an opportunity for others across the league to step into the spotlight.
Here at Sky Sports, we will keep you fully up to speed in 2018 as the domestic season continues and international rugby arrives in town.
We will also be bringing you the very best from the women's sevens circuit as the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens series stops in Sydney, Kitakyushu, Langford and Paris.